Toy Story 4 Review: And the Award for the Best Animated Feature Film of 2019 Goes to…
On November 25, 1995, Pixar redefined the world of animation when Toy Story opened in theaters. Toy Story was the first ever computer-animated film, but it wasn’t just the spectacular animation that made the film a massive success. Toy Story spoke to audiences in a way that so few animated films ever did before. It was a film for all ages thanks to brilliant writing, flawless direction and memorable characters such as Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Toy Story was the feature film debut from Pixar Animation, a studio that quickly became referred to as the creme de la creme of animation.
Toy Story was a gamechanger. I cannot tell you how many times I saw Toy Story in theaters, but it was a lot. It was one of those films I was fascinated by. The release of Toy Story only continued to fuel my love of animation, which was an obsession, at that point, thanks to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, which opened two years prior.
Twenty-four years later, Toy Story 4 is Pixar’s 21st feature-length film. Even though Pixar has released several spectacular films over the past few decades, it is hard to deny Toy Story as their most loved franchise. The news that a Toy Story 4 was in the works had film lovers up in arms because most would agree Toy Story 3 was the near-perfect conclusion to this beloved series. I too had my doubts about a fourth entry because I felt there was nothing left to say or explore, but boy oh boy, was I wrong.
Toy Story 4 opens with a prologue set before Toy Story 3. It’s here we learn why Bo-Peep (Annie Potts) was absent from the previous movie. Then, through the use of a very poignant and nostalgia-filled montage, Toy Story 4 jumps to the present where Bonnie now owns all of Andy’s old toys.
Woody, loyal as ever, is very protective of Bonnie, even if he’s no longer the leader. To make sure she has a good first day at school, Woody sneaks into her backpack. Seeing that Bonnie is having a tough time, Woody gives her some materials to help keep her occupied. Bonnie uses these items to build Forky (Tony Hale) who is quickly deemed her new favorite toy.
Upon returning to Bonnie’s home, the other toys are confused by Forky (and so is Forky for that matter). Woody explains it doesn’t matter if Forky isn’t a toy because Bonnie loves him, and that’s what is most important. Later, while on vacation with Bonnie and her parents, Forky tries to escape and Woody goes after him, leading to a new adventure, with an unlikely reunion with Bo-Peep.
Toy Story 4 is a film I never knew I needed but after seeing it couldn’t live without. This is how I feel about the Toy Story series in a nutshell. After seeing the first film, I didn’t think I needed a sequel, but then it arrived, and I loved it just as much as the original. The same can be said about Toy Story 3 and this latest entry. Everything about Toy Story 4 is perfection, from the animation to the voice cast. This is a flawless film that perfectly blends humor and heart.
This time around, Woody spends a lot of his time with Forky and Bo-Peep while Buzz is on his own for a good amount of time, trying to track down Woody. In a lot of ways, this film works as a passing of the torch from Woody to Buzz. I won’t go into detail because I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the fun, but Woody and Buzz see things from different perspectives in this film, therefore, taking their characters in different directions than we’ve seen before.
Since Toy Story 4‘s development, which began years ago, there were eight writers attached to the film. Usually, when eight writers are working on a single movie, it’s a bad sign. That isn’t the case here. While we may never know who was responsible for what, the final script for Toy Story 4 is the funniest of all the films thus far. The dialogue is razor sharp, and there are plenty of hilarious one-liners.
Additionally, as someone who has always appreciated Pixar for making films just as much for adults as they are for children, I loved the dark humor found in the movie. These laugh-out-loud moments are so hysterical that you may end up missing a few things from all the audience laughter. Most of those darker jokes come from Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key), Bunny (Jordan Peele), and Buttercup (Jeff Garlin), so make sure you pay close attention to their lines whenever the characters on-screen.
With millions of people, like myself, who love this franchise and have grown up with it, a lot was riding on Toy Story 4 to deliver the goods. The fact that the majority of the voice cast has returned says a lot about the quality of the film. Casting Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz is one of the best decisions in Hollywood history. These two have truly brought these characters to life by pouring their hearts and souls into them.
A lot of the actors should be recognized for their incredible vocal work in this film, but there are so many to credit. I want to focus on the newer characters, as well as Bo-Peep since they are the driving force of the story. Tony Hale’s work as Forky is another example of finding the perfect voice actor for a character. As Forky, Hale repeats a lot of the same dialogue but does so in such a way that is always funny and amusing. Annie Potts makes a welcome return to the series, and a lot has changed from Toy Story 2 to now. The audience will see an adventurous Bo-Peep with a new outlook on life.
I love how the Toy Story franchise continues to include new toys. Without revealing too much, a large part of this story takes place within an antique store, where a lot of the new characters are introduced including Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and some rather creepy ventriloquist dummies. Incorporating these older toys from not only the 70s and 80s but also the 40s and 50s was an awesome addition by the writers. Reeves, in particular, is excellent as Duke Caboom, a Canadian knockoff of the Evel Knievel toy from the mid-70s.
The great thing is how Toy Story films never feel like cash grabs. Instead, they are made with love, care, and passion. I give Pixar a lot of credit for ensuring that each Toy Story entry isn’t haphazardly put together. Some of the Pixar sequels don’t have the same level of quality as the originals, which is why I am so thankful the studio made it a priority for the Toy Story franchise to continue to raise the bar for the studio, not only for the animation but the overall quality of their projects.
Toy Story 4 is an anomaly when it comes to sequels. Really, this entire film franchise is an anomaly because not only do the films live up to and exceed expectations, but they somehow improve upon the previous entries. Toy Story 4 solidifies that Pixar has crafted one of the best film franchises of all time, if not the best. Do yourself a favor and run to the closest theater to see Toy Story 4 as soon as opens. It will be a hard film to top for the rest of the year, and I have no doubt it will win Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.